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Making Water Droplets Mobile

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 02:40PM

Water is an interesting material with how it can behave so differently depending on the situation. In some cases it will slip and slide over a surface (taking people with it) and in other cases it will cling to wherever it is. Making it slide around when it wants to stick can be tricky, but researchers at Penn State have managed to achieve this by creating a surface that droplets will easily move around on.

When water droplets are on a rough surface it can either partially float on a layer of air, or it can be in full contact with the surface, sticking in one place. The former state is called Cassie and the latter is named Wenzel, for the physicists that first described both states. Typically droplets in the Wenzel state will not move, but the Penn State researchers figured out how to free the droplets to move around. They did this by etching a silicon surface to have micrometer scale pillars, and then etched nanotextures into the pillars. These nanotextures then had a layer of lubricant infused into them, making the surface very slippery to the droplets.

This discovery could prove useful for any system that uses water condensation for heat transfer, and could outperform superhydrophobic materials that repel water. While the surface was made of silicon, this approach should be applicable to other materials, including metals, glass, ceramics, and even plastics.

Source: Penn State

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